The Berean Expositor
Volume 45 - Page 89 of 251
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pp. 184 - 188
The Apostle Paul sums up the section of the epistle we have been dealing with,
relative to the believer's rights and his voluntary limitation of these for the sake of
weaker brethren, by saying:
". . . I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some" (9: 22 R.V.).
His utter unselfishness and consideration for others made such an attitude a constant
experience with him. As long as there was no compromise with truth, he was willing to
go as far as possible with both Jew and Gentile in spite of their totally opposite
backgrounds, with one object, that some of them would be won for Christ (20, 21). We
notice that Paul gives no hint of universal salvation. He knew only too well that in spite
of his faithful proclamation of the gospel of Christ, only some would respond;
nevertheless he did everything for the sake of the gospel, that in it we might be a
joint-partaker (23 R.V.). It was a privilege indeed to have any share in its witness, and
this led on to the thought of service and its outcome. The Corinthians seemed to believe
that as long as they were saved, this was all that mattered. The Christian life and service
afterwards counted little with them, otherwise they would never have tolerated the
condition that existed in their midst. Now the Apostle has to remind them that, although
salvation is by grace, quite apart from works, the practical response after salvation would
be taken account of by the Lord and all would be finally answerable to Him for this. So
once again he introduces the teaching concerning reward for faithful service, as he had
already done in chapter 3: (3: 10-15), and for this uses the illustration of the games
which would be universally understood in the Greek world. Paul is fond of using the
"race course" as a concrete example of what faithful Christian witness should be like.
He does so in Hebrews (12: 1, 2), Galatians (2: 2; 5: 7), Philippians (3: 13, 14) and
II Timothy (2: 5; 4: 7, 8), and to these we might add Acts 20: 24.
The believers at Corinth evidently thought that there was an automatic connection
between running and winning; in other words, to be saved meant automatically being
rewarded by the Lord, and there are not wanting today Christians who think likewise.
Some even reject the possibility of reward entirely and so stress grace that reward is
impossible. Such should carefully ponder the Apostle's argument here:
"Do you not know that all the competitors in the stadium run, but only one of them
receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Everyone who takes part in
the contests disciplines himself in every way. They do it to receive a perishable crown,
we to receive an imperishable one" (9: 24, 25 100: K. Barrett).
The entry into any race does not in itself guarantee a prize either in athletics or in
Christianity. But we must not deduce from Paul's illustration that only one believer can
win God's prize, or one out of each group. The point at issue is that the believer must not
only start correctly. He must continue correctly, press on, and reach the goal. No runner
can afford to drop out of the race for any reason if he desires to breast the tape and win.
Likewise for the believer, the whole of human life is like a racecourse. Service for the